|Just a small pile of some of our "homework"|
Yet even with all this learning time, we're not totally immersed. We continue to speak English at home (though sprinkled with as much Dutch as we can manage). TV shows (for adults) imported from America and the UK are not dubbed, instead subtitles are added to the bottom. So many people speak English that it's very easy to fall into the habit of, "Sorry, mijn Nederlands is niet goed. Spreek u Engels?" (Sorry, my Dutch isn't good. Do you speak English) and getting a fully conversationally fluent answer back in English. Even the older kids on the playground often know enough English that they can hold a decent conversation. But we continue to work on it - for us, but more importantly, for the Little Man. Sure, every parent wants their kid to succeed, but we've developed a different sense of urgency about it since moving to the Netherlands.
As a monolingual parent, you want your kid to fit in when surrounded by a different language. Little Man will always be a buitenlander (foreigner) to some extent - his birth in another country and his American parents will ensure that. Gaining a solid understanding of the language while growing up within the culture will lessen that "otherness."But for now, I can see when he plays at the playground that the kids his age don't really know what he's doing. Part of that is being three and not being self-aware enough to introduce yourself to someone new, so why would you also think to say "Ik ben draak" (I'm a dragon) when you run up to a new friend, growling and flapping your arms? But if the other kids are talking to him about what he's doing, he's not getting it. At least not yet.
You also want your child to have as many opportunities for success as possible, and much of a child's success is (for better or worse) determined by their school performance. The better the child's grasp of the language, the more successful they will be. Having parents actively participating in the learning process is another indicator of a child's academic success. If we want to be able to help when he's struggling with homework or when he has new material, we have to know what the instructions say or what the teacher may send home for classroom notes. We don't want Little Man to be "labeled" or put at a learning disadvantage because his (or our) language skills have held him back.
You want to be able to communicate with your kid's friends. Parents of other children might not be comfortable with you watching their kid during after school projects or play dates if you can't communicate with them, and it's not necessarily fair to rely on your own child to translate.
We keep in mind that he is "only" 3 years old. We know that he has friends that speak English and Dutch. We know that he has many years of school before him. Our own understanding of Dutch is improving. But the concerns will continue to be there - so we all continue plugging away at our Dutch.